So, you’re ready to design and build a CBRS LTE network?

Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) has arrived and with it, 150 MHz of prime 3.5GHz spectrum in a low-cost shared spectrum model with few barriers to entry. Described by the FCC as “the innovation band”, CBRS LTE has attracted a variety of existing and new network operators. They include traditional small, medium and large service providers, as well as municipal public broadband operators, private enterprises and vertical markets such as utilities, education and transportation.

The initial view of CBRS 3.5GHz shared spectrum shows great potential for many exciting, new use-cases. While the opportunities are numerous and diverse this new ecosystem presents many operational challenges. For starters, planning, designing and deploying a CBRS LTE network involves more capabilities and resources than most organizations can provide.

What’s involved?

Companies ready to invest in owning and operating a CBRS LTE network already have a vision of what they want it to do. But the process of designing, engineering, building, provisioning, testing and ultimately turning up the network involves multiple layers of inter-dependent complexities. The following is a partial list of what’s involved:

The skills and experience needed for a company looking to own and operate a CBRS network present significant challenges. Designing the radio access network (RAN), for example, typically involves as many as half a dozen vendors or more—radio heads, baseband unit, outside plant, EPC, licensing, etc. And while LTE is a relatively mature technology, CBRS has attracted several new pure-play suppliers who must be engaged and vetted as well.

For non digital-native organizations, like public utilities and municipalities, the lack of technical expertise and vendor relationships create even more challenges. These organizations, however, typically realize that they do not have the technical chops and resources to pull off a CBRS network design/deployment project by themselves. It’s often the smaller and mid-sized service providers who are most likely to wade into a design/build project alone only to find that they have bitten off a bit more than they’re equipped to handle.

Third-party Services Integration (SI)

An alternative to the in-house approach is to outsource part or all of the project management to a third-party services integration partner. An experienced, well-equipped SI partner not only enables you to free up internal resources, they often have existing tools, processes and relationships that can accelerate the project and generate greater cost savings.

As with any outsourced relationship, finding the right fit is critical. At Fujitsu, we have completed hundreds of full and partial network SI management projects. Based on our experience, here are a few recommendations for finding and selecting an SI project partner.

  • Vendor-neutral: This is key to ensuring you have access to the technology and services of all available vendors, not just those your SI partner works with. At the very least, if your partner does not have an active agreement with a potential vendor, they should commit to obtaining it.   
  • Needs-based a la carte services: The contracted scope of services should be dictated by your needs and in-house capabilities. The ability to pick and choose the services you need will deliver greater value and enable you to allocate internal resources as you see fit.   
  • Holistic release management: Any multi-vendor inter-operational solution involves a vast range of software and hardware components that must be integrated into the final product and managed going forward. A holistic release management approach ensures that any inter-operational conflicts are handled within the context of the entire project.

Ask, ask, ask

Finally, a good partner will work with you to define the project’s goals, scope, requirements and sequence. This means checking in repeatedly to make sure you understand what they are proposing and why. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The process is complicated and the technology, complex; they may have been brought in for their technical and project management expertise, but you own and are ultimately responsible for your CBRS network. The more you know, the more successful it will be.   

Headed to Mobile World Congress in Anaheim? Please visit Fujitsu in the CBRS Alliance OnGo Pavillion . We’d welcome the chance to speak with you about your plans for CBRS LTE integration. To learn more about what we offer, check out our Services Integration portfolio.   

3.5 GHz for Utilities is Not Your Grandpa’s CB Radio

Move over, county mounties and bears in the air – there’s a new Bubba Big Rigger in town, wall-to-wall and treetop-tall. The FCC recently opened a block of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, known as Citizen Broadband Radio Services (CBRS). This newly available block enables efficient use of radio spectrum, while helping to promote innovative SmartX applications and Internet of things (IoT) technology.

In the past, utilities have turned to Wi-Fi networks, bulk network data buys, or even spectrum leasing partnerships for their wireless infrastructure needs. All of these options can be expensive and difficult to scale, especially with the onrushing deluge of IoT devices, all of which require wireless connectivity. Now with CBRS, the FCC has opened up more efficient and secure wireless networking options for utilities.

For many utilities, SmartX is a major driver for owning, managing and controlling their own wireless network infrastructure, enabling them to modernize their existing services while introducing innovation and new revenue opportunities to their businesses. With high-performance wireless connectivity, utilities can benefit from industrial IoT “smart” sensors to increase operational efficiencies from automation and analytics. These efficiencies can take many forms. A few examples are automated data collection over wind farms extending over several miles; fiber replacement/supplement for operation; and easy deployment of remote surveillance cameras, power plants, water, gas and electricity metering and data security.

With CBRS, utilities can now deploy private LTE networks in available shared spectrum instead of hard-to-get or expensive licensed spectrum. CBRS offers more secure connectivity than Wi-Fi, with the high speeds and quality of an LTE wireless network. Whether connectivity is required in a tall office building, a college campus, or a large remote site (as in the mining industry), CBRS solutions allow utility companies to build a local private LTE network for their entire enterprise – regardless of the scale of their operation. The ability to aggregate multiple channels or carriers within the CBRS band will now allow utilities to offer mobility services to their existing customers while modernizing their existing operations.

For data transmissions from fixed wireless access points, CBRS will allow utilities to use SAS-enabled shared spectrum to create a robust, carrier-grade, broadband wireless network. (SAS, Spectrum Access Sharing, allows the FCC to monitor and manage any network interface between CBRS users and the US government who currently own a portion of the CBRS spectrum.) Utilities acting as wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) can build a highly reliable wireless network that offers cost-effective fixed wireless access with low latency and delivers real time communications to all their sensors, cameras and industrial IoT needs. Wireless networking over CBRS spectrum offers a means to tap into the growth opportunities for smart connected systems in various industries. CBRS offers plenty of spectrum to go around and although initial deployment costs can seem high in relation to Wi-Fi, the ongoing costs are lower, to the extent that LTE over CBRS deployments are expected to prove more economical over the long term. Utilities planning their SmartX and IoT implementations should start evaluating CBRS at this early stage of the game, and take advantage of the potential benefits for the new generation of connected utility technologies and big data analytics. The glory days of Citizens’ Band radio may be in our rear view mirror today, but for Citizens’ Broadband radio, it’s a big wide open road out there.

The Reality of Delivering the 5G Vision

With the start of 2019, the era of 5G is officially here… or is it? Are you ready? While a few early market leaders are already hyping 5G services, most service providers are still making plans. And as the build-out begins, the reality of deploying complex new architectures is introducing a variety of challenges.

Due to the increased speed and capability that 5G promises, service providers can expect mobile subscribers to consume more and more data, particularly rich multimedia content. Add to that the flood of device-to-device communications expected with the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as new use cases for the smart home enabled by fixed wireless access, and it’s easy to see that substantially greater capacity, scalability, reliability and performance will be needed — from the first mile all the way to the edge.

Intelligent RAN Plan

Next-generation 5G networks will require robust transport infrastructure, including a dense radio access network (RAN) architecture with distributed intelligence. This increasing densification means more advanced topologies in the access part of the transport network, as well as evolved fronthaul, midhaul and backhaul (i.e., X-Haul) interfaces.

As the 5G RAN becomes increasingly virtualized, service providers will be able to dynamically support a range of use cases with varying demands using SDN control and orchestration. Plus, a key benefit of this virtualization is the opportunity to disaggregate the optical transport network, simplifying the evolution to an integrated and modular 4G/5G network that is highly programmable.

However, X-Haul deployment plans will be highly dependent on the varying capacity needs and latency sensitivities of the specific use cases to be supported, requiring careful consideration of many different factors.

Vision to Reality

The potential for significant revenue from diverse 5G services is very real. And with a robust transport network capable of adaptively handling multiple open radio interfaces, network latencies and virtual infrastructures, your network will be able to support countless devices and applications, delivering the full 5G experience.

Yet, the complexities of next-generation architecture mean that service providers are essentially in uncharted waters as they transform this vision into reality, requiring them to fundamentally rethink network design and deployment. For this reason, Fujitsu is working closely with leading network service providers to help them plan, design and deploy 5G networks that will allow them to deliver new services they can monetize immediately, while preparing for more evolved use cases in the future.

To help other service providers learn from our real-world experience, we’ve published a paper entitled “Transporting 5G from Vision to Reality” that examines 5G transport challenges, the evolution of the RAN architecture, best practices for design and deployment, early business model opportunities and a vision for the future.  Click here to download this informative paper.

Digital Transformation in the Hyperconnected World of 5G

Can you feel the anticipation? As we approach the era of 5G, excitement continues to build over the potential for new, disruptive digital services that are expected to flourish in tomorrow’s hyperconnected world. Digital technology is already transforming every facet of business and society, and the pace will only accelerate in the next phase of network evolution.

But despite the hype, this transformation doesn’t just happen overnight. If only we could flip a switch and (poof!) we suddenly have a complete ecosystem capable of supporting all the services that 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) will deliver. To enable a responsive network that can live up to the hype, disparate new and legacy technologies will need to come together in a flexible and open infrastructure.

So how do we build a flexible platform that’s open, yet secure? At Fujitsu, we believe that digital co-creation is the answer. As the industry prepares for the next wave of network evolution, co-creation will enable information sharing and innovation beyond boundaries to deliver real digital transformation and business value.

Outside the Box

Arguably, the true promise of 5G will be the development of entirely new business models like we’ve never seen before. To deliver on that promise, network service providers will require a scalable ecosystem that spans technologies, industries and vendors. Secure, seamless, end-to-end connections across wireless and wireline technologies would be nearly impossible with yesterday’s proprietary architecture.

This vision of hyperconnectivity will be key to realizing innovative 5G business models, powering flexible bandwidth on demand to support the digital service ecosystem. Service-aware platforms that incorporate artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis will enable a broad range of offerings, from high-speed home entertainment and IoT initiatives, to autonomous cars and smart cities. In order for tomorrow’s networks to provide a secure exchange of information across boundaries, however, service providers will require open, programmable interfaces for collaboration.

At Fujitsu, we’re uniquely positioned to help build this ecosystem, delivering a very scalable optical network, as well as intelligent software, to enable end-to-end 5G services across both the wireline transport network and the wireless radio access network (RAN). That’s why we are working closely with our customers as they plan and deploy the network infrastructure that will enable the hyperconnected 5G vision. This co-creation — with customers and industry partners— is about helping to advance the ecosystem and develop digital business models that will benefit network service providers, their subscribers and society overall.

For example, digital co-creation led us to develop our Virtual Access Network (vAN) solution, a flexible and cost-effective approach to delivering access services. With the vAN solution, service providers can support small and medium businesses with services that were previously cost-prohibitive, particularly in rural areas. Through the process of co-creation, we developed a new service that allows customers to save time, money and resources.

To Tomorrow and Beyond

The evolution of the hyperconnected world is quickly accelerating toward a future full of opportunity. Digital co-creation will be fundamental to making sure that service providers, and the entire ecosystem, are well-equipped to fully realize the 5G vision. And service-aware, conscious networks built on flexible, programmable, open platforms will be the engine that powers that digital transformation. To learn more about our vision for 5G, visit: https://fast.wistia.com/embed/iframe/r2fsy5ad9c.

The Promise of VoLTE: It’s Only a Matter of Time

VoLTE

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is considered by many to be revolutionary both for mobile operators and for subscribers. Operators, once they have established their VoLTE networks, will no longer have to maintain separate networks for voice (circuit-switched) and data (packet-switched). This will save on operational and capital expenses. Subscribers who use VoLTE will be able to use high-quality voice and data applications simultaneously, and the clarity of their voice calls will improve.

So why has VoLTE taken longer than anticipated to deploy? The answer lies in several challenges, which I’d like to discuss briefly.

  • The successful roll-out of HD voice and video calling services requires VoLTE technology to be simultaneously available in both the mobile network core and on mobile handsets. Most mobile operators’ core infrastructures are not fully equipped to simultaneously support circuit-switched and packet voice. In addition, VoLTE-enabled handsets are not yet widely available.
  • VoLTE promises to move wireless calls from the legacy circuit-switched network to the all-IP-based LTE network. The formidable task of supporting both switched-circuit and packet-based technologies, however, is not economical for mobile operators in markets where LTE is not yet deployed. What’s more, mobile operators are still resolving VoLTE call interoperability issues to support customers who are roaming.
  • Finally, successful VoLTE deployment depends heavily on nationwide LTE deployment and the adoption of LTE-based small cells for in-building voice enhancements. Adoption of LTE-based small cells for residential and enterprise applications is still very low.

Despite these challenges, numerous efforts are underway to realize the promise of VoLTE.  To expedite nationwide rollout, several leading mobile operators have begun limited trials in major markets, testing voice quality and equipment interoperability. Suppliers are slowly rolling out VoLTE-enabled handsets; and a consortium of mobile operators is negotiating roaming agreements for smooth inter-network transitions. The potential long-term benefits of VoLTE to operators and consumers alike are too great to miss and they easily outweigh any temporary intermediate setbacks.